Vilnius, Lithuania • December 2015 • Length of Read: 4 Minutes
“What are you reading?” asked Gadams as we came in to land.
“Bound for Glory by Woodie Guthrie,” I responded. “He was a pioneer of folk music during the Great Depression, garnering the nickname ‘Dust Bowl Troubadour’ as he hustled along the railways of the American mid-west learning and playing the blues. Most famously, his guitar branded the slogan ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’. I’ve actually had the book for ages and just never got around to reading it until now. I took it to the Sahara Desert and everything.”
“Is it a bit of a dry read then?” smirked Gadams, awaiting my reaction. “Get it? Dust Bowl. Desert. Dry.”
“Oh, I got it alright. I just don’t feel that such a truly awful joke deserves a response. You’re quite smug about that one though aren’t you?”
“I could ask the pilot to turn around right now and would still regard this trip as having been a success.”
Upon arrival in Vilnius we joined the customs line and found a fellow Scot, of similar age, queueing up in front of us. The purpose of John’s trip to the Lithuanian capital was to spend New Year with his girlfriend’s family, the couple having met whilst at University in Dundee. It was safe to say he didn’t come across as being too thrilled about the prospect.
“Not a single other member of her family speaks English,” he sighed. “Last time I was across it was literally like playing a week-long game of ‘charades’. Also, they live in a kind of converted farm house out in the wilderness, so there really are minimal things to do. At least it’s only for four days this time. I fly back on Saturday. What are you two here for?”
“We’re here for a little New Year getaway man,” I said with little sympathy. “Last year we went to Riga, Latvia and had an absolutely epic time partying, making new friends, and going down an Olympic bobsled track. We wanted to repeat that type of trip this year, so decided to come one country south.”
“Well I’m certain you’ll have a great time here,” said John as we passed through border control; the three of us seemingly the only tourists on the flight. “I just hope you packed some warm clothes,” he concluded. “It’s -15°C at the moment.”
“Woollen jumpers were chosen as essentials before any form of fashion don’t you worry,” I chuckled. “Perhaps we’ll see you on the return flight. We’re heading back on Saturday as well.”
My watch read 12am as our taxi pulled up to the hostel we’d booked for the duration of our stay. En-route we had dabbled with the idea of going straight to bed so as to wake up refreshed for a day of exploring the city the following morning, but upon checking-in we were instead drawn to the group of French and English guys playing card games in the lounging area; knocking back a serious amount of alcohol in the process. As it so happened they were just finishing off a final round before heading out to a club to meet some of the hostel’s other residents. Instead of cosying up under our sheets we therefore dumped our bags, wrapped up in hats and scarves, and headed out with them into the blistering cold night.
The three English lads worked in similar finance jobs to Gadams and I down in London and were also in Vilnius for similar reasons. We entered a venue called Salento and whilst Brian and Neil found some of their dorm-mates Iain and I got chatting to two gorgeous, beautiful, memorizing, local girls that had also just walked in. I found myself at the bar doing shots of whiskey with Bella when a stocky, sandy-haired, guy waltzed over and interrupted in a rough English accent. He was an army lad and obviously knew the girls from elsewhere. Not one to be confrontational, I left them chatting and used the opportunity to visit the toilet, having not relieved myself since 1,100 miles previous in Glasgow.
I entered the bathroom and started going about my business only to become immediately distracted by the two blokes stood next to me; crossing swords at the same urinal whilst in a deep discussion over the opposing merits of Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Clearly having only just met, the German half of this weird pair then zipped up; gave the Mancunian a high-five; and turned to me. A bizarre look of confusion was glued to my face.
“As a 3rd party to this moment could you please take our photo and upload it to Facebook so we will have a permanent memory of this encounter?” he queried, like it were as normal a request as asking for the time.
“Eh, of course man,” I stuttered, not really sure how best to respond.
Not willing to extend the conversation any longer at the hand drier I left wafting my hands and went to the smoking area and reunited with the girls. They had fobbed off the army guy with a wrong number and I learned that Rapunzel was driving because the pair lived out in the sticks.
“You don’t happen to know a girl with a Scottish boyfriend called John by any chance, do you?” I asked.
“Suppose it was a bit of a long shot.”
As the club began to quieten we exchanged details, and with a hug goodbye I skidded along the ice and back to the hostel.
I awoke in the top bunk of my dorm the next morning to an incessant rustling in my ear. A Chinese girl was stood at my head height rabbiting away in Mandarin and having an apparent fight with her suitcase. Unless she had been wrapping a Ming vase for fragile international delivery however I have absolutely no idea how somebody could have been making such a racket. Unable to get back to sleep, I left her fidgeting with a supermarket-level volume of carrier bags and wandered through to the kitchen for some of the hostel’s free waffles. Iain was sat at the table nursing a fat lip.
“What happened to you?” I asked. “Hurt yourself sleepwalking?”
“I got punched,” he grimaced.
“What? I left you literally at the gate of the hostel last night.”
“Remember those army pricks we saw in the club?”
“The ones that were trying their hardest with the babes?”
“Yeah, well it turns out that they were staying in my dorm. I think they were already really pissed off with each other for one reason or another, and having 'spoken' to one of 'their' girls obviously didn’t make me their best friend. They recognised me immediately and as the sandy-haired guy grabbed my neck and pushed me against the wall the other guy just socked me one.
“Fuck man, you OK? Did you tell reception?”
“Yeah I told the girl at the desk and she fetched me some ice. Unfortunately the guys had already checked out though so just picked up their stuff after the incident and left. The worst thing of all though was that upon going back to the dorm room I noticed that someone had pissed on my bed.
“Thankfully there were a few spare ones free in another room so I could at least get a dry kip for the night.”
“Jesus. Well you look fairly refreshed all considering. Want to let your anger out at a rifle range tomorrow?”
“Maybe man, maybe. Hey, these waffles aren’t half good eh?”